January 2024 Heritage Celebrations

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Provost’s Office would like to remind you of several celebrations, commemorations, and moments of raising awareness for members of our community during the month of January:

Federal and Cultural Holidays:

New Year’s Day (January 1): This day for celebrating new beginnings was first marked as a federal holiday in 1870, along with Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day (January 11): Every January 11, the United States government recognizes National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. On January 11, 2011, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation designating January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Though slavery in the United States was officially abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, the injustice of slavery still exists through sex trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude, forced marriage, and debt bondage.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 10,000 reports of human trafficking involving over 16,000 individual victims in 2021; 2022 and 2023 statistics have not yet been released. Evidence suggests that people of color and LGBTQIA+ people are among the most vulnerable to trafficking, as are victims of domestic violence; victims of sexual abuse; those in unstable living conditions; runaways or those involved in the juvenile justice or foster care system; undocumented migrants; those facing poverty or economic need; and those addicted to drugs or alcohol.

For more information or to report suspected human trafficking:

      • Visit the Connecticut Department of Children and Families for Connecticut-specific resources and information
      • Call the Federal Government at 1-866-347-2423
      • Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to BeFree (233733).

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 15): Since 1983, the third Monday of January has been set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. No figure is more closely associated with the American struggle for civil rights than Dr. King, an influential leader who is best known for his work on racial equity and ending racial segregation in the United States. On this day we honor his life and his achievements, and we reflect on the work that still needs to be done to promote racial equity. Observing this holiday provides an opportunity for all of us at UConn to reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy. In particular, we invite you to reflect on the importance of standing up for racial, social, and economic justice for all. From Dr. King, we learned that we can only reach our potential for justice when we address the needs of those who have been excluded from it historically, especially racially oppressed peoples. We recognize that we cannot truly have justice as long as there are groups for whom justice is denied.

UConn celebrates the work of Dr. King through the MLK Living Legacy Convocation, including keynote speaker Dr. Fania E. Davis, and the MLK Day of Service. To see more information about these events, as well as other events across the state, please visit UConn’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice website.

National Day of Racial Healing (January 16): January 16, 2024, marks the eighth annual Day of Racial Healing. As part of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Initiative – which has selected UConn as one of its campus sites – this day recognizes that racial healing lies at the heart of racial equity. According to the TRHT framework, racial healing enables community, organizational, and systems transformation by restoring individuals and communities to wholeness; repairing the damage caused by racism; facilitating trust; building authentic relationships; and bridging divides. To get involved in this year’s Day of Racial Healing:

    • The National Day of Racial Healing with Dr. Anneliese Singh (January 16, 12.00pm – 1:30 pm, Storrs Campus): Join us for an enlightening event and discover practical activities to empower yourself in challenging privilege, confronting systemic racism, and actively participating in collective healing. Register here!
    • HERO Graduate Students Self-Care Workshop with Dr. Diandra Prescod (January 16, 2.00pm – 3.30pm, ODI Commons): Join fellow HERO (historically excluded and racially oppressed) graduate students for a workshop focused on self-care and community care. Register here!
    • Hold a racial healing conversation around your dinner table or in a community space. Download the National Day of Racial Healing Conversation Guide.
    • Watch Changing the Narrative, a 14-part digital series on the subject of advancing racial equity through the experience of racial healing, produced by NBC Universal News Group and sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27): In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly voted to mark January 27th—the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to the United States Holocaust Museum, an estimated 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, including 1 million Jewish people. The atrocities committed there were only part of the larger program of genocide aiming to systemically annihilate the Jewish people. An estimated six million Jewish people were murdered during the Holocaust—around two thirds of the world’s Jewish population at that time—along with millions of others. On January 27th, we remember this systemic murder and renew our vow to never let such violence happen again.

ODI believes that the first step to stopping this violence from happening again is to stand against antisemitism in all forms. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the last two years have brought a spike in antisemitic incidents in the United States, including on college campuses. Sadly, UConn has not been spared from this trend. We encourage all members of the UConn community to confront antisemitism, racism, and discrimination, to actively speak out and denounce it, and to create a caring community that celebrates diversity. For more resources on confronting antisemitism, please check out:

ODI and the Provost’s Office are committed to combating antisemitism in our campus spaces. We are currently engaged in two long-term programs to combat antisemitism: a Campus Climate Initiative in partnership with Hillel and the Academic Engagement Network. These two projects are helping UConn build the infrastructure needed to eliminate antisemitism and other forms of identity-based harassment and violence, including by expanding partnerships across the university system. We are also excited to participate in the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center Initiative, which will help build the infrastructure for addressing identity-based bias and creating space for members of our community to process and heal from hateful incidents.

Religious Holidays:

Epiphany | Theophany | Three Kings Day (January 6): Epiphany is a Christian feast day celebrating the revelation of Jesus Christ as God incarnate. In Western Christian traditions, this feast commemorates the visit of Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. Epiphany is the twelfth day of Christmas, and the night before is commonly referred to as Twelfth Night. In Eastern Christian traditions, this feast is known as Theophany and commemorates the revelation of Christ’s divinity through his baptism and his first miracle.

In Latin American countries, the day is commemorated as Three Kings Day, El Día de Reyes or El Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos. In addition to gift-giving and parades on this day, this day is often marked with Rosca de Reyes, a cake that signifies a king’s crown. Inside this cake is a small plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus; whoever finds it is obligated to host the upcoming Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas Day) on February 2nd.

Orthodox Christmas (January 7): Orthodox Christmas, also known as “Old Christmas,” is celebrated on January 7th in accordance with the Julian calendar. Christmas is celebrated on this day by practitioners of Orthodox faiths, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, including Greece, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine, as well as in communities in Egypt, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. Traditions vary by location and culture, but Old Christmas is typically seen as a time for peace, unity, reflection, and healing.

Orthodox New Year (January 14): Orthodox New Year, also known as “Old New Year” is celebrated on the first day of the Julian calendar, falling on January 14 of the Gregorian calendar. This day is celebrated by practitioners of Orthodox faiths, especially in Russia, Serbia, North Macedonia, and other Eastern European countries, though it is not a public holiday in those countries. Celebrations vary by location, but typical traditions involve a festive dinner, music, dancing, and meditation about personal New Year’s resolutions.

Makar Sankranti (January 15): Makar Sankranti, often called “Uttarayana,” “Makar,” or “Sankranti,” is a Hindu observance and festival that celebrates the sun’s journey from the Southern to the Northern hemisphere. Dedicated to the sun deity, Surya, Makar marks a new beginning. Makar is a day for thanking Mother Earth or nature as the winter starts to recede to spring; participants spread good will, peace, and prosperity by giving each other presents, especially sweets. Makar is typically observed on January 14 but is observed on January 15 during leap years.

Tu B’Shevat (January 24-25):  The 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. This day marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. Today, many Jews hold a modern version of the Tu B’Shevat seder (festive meal) during the holiday and celebrate by eating fruit, particularly from the kinds that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The holiday has also become a tree-planting festival in which many Israelis and Jews around the world plant trees in honor or memory of loved ones and friends.

We welcome the celebration of each of these holidays on our campuses and encourage support for those requiring accommodations. You can find information and guidance about academic accommodations for religious observations on the Provost Office’s webpage.

To see more information about resources and events happening this month and throughout the semester, please visit our events page at www.diversity.uconn.edu/events. ODI writes these letters in collaboration with our partners across the UConn system. If we inadvertently omitted a cultural or religious holiday, please let us know by emailing us at diversity@uconn.edu.

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Frank, Anne, and Jeff

Frank Tuitt
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer

Anne D’Alleva
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Jeffrey F. Hines, MD
Associate Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, UConn Health